As Sally Fields famously said in her Oscar acceptance speech, “You like me, you really like me!” That sentiment is at the heart of all awards ceremonies: Receiving recognition for your hard work and contributions in a room full of your peers is emotional and gratifying.

But not all award ceremonies can or should be as slick and glamorous as the Oscars. Whether you recognise staff for their achievements, give accolades to talented artists, or say “thank you” to community members, let these 21 employee award ceremony ideas inspire you.

What’s an award show ceremony?

An awards ceremony is a formal-to-semi-formal event honoring achievements in a particular field, such as medicine, finance, or the fine arts. Examples of awards include celebrating an employee of the month or a work anniversary.

They can be stand-alone events or part of a conference or summit, and are often compared to gala events.

Why should you host an awards ceremony?

Creating an awards ceremony has several benefits, including generating exposure for you and your clients, such as:

  • PR coverage through industry publications
  • Direct contact with influencers
  • Increased brand awareness and networking opportunities at the event itself

It also creates word-of-mouth buzz as those nominated and receive awards naturally want to share through their channels. It spreads the message organically and naturally, giving clients and sponsors widespread coverage.

21 award ceremony ideas

Your guests have come for a show, so give them one. Simply reading out a long list of award winners’ names and watching as they have photos taken can be tedious for non-winners. These award ceremony ideas explore how you can combine music, video, and light to create a natural spectacle.

1. Skip the stage

If you’re working with fewer guests, skip the traditional stage setup for a more personal and memorable experience. Opt for a table at the center of the action and add personal touches like place cards in place of name tags.

2. Bring in a visual artist

Keep guests talking with a large-scale art piece or mural that ties the ceremony together. It can be a conversation piece and a prize for one lucky attendee or winner. It also lets event planners introduce local artists to the community.

3. Make space and time for networking

Many attend award shows to mix and mingle. Tweak the layout of the reception, bars, and seating to provide more room for guests to maneuver and chat. Don’t forget to provide conversation starters!

4. Engage the crowd

Keep everyone engaged – especially those not nominated. Award show trivia encourages audience participation; for a more high-tech option, try interactive zygote balls. These change colours when touched and can bounce throughout the crowd.

5. Add a festival component

Borrowing from popular festivals doesn’t have to mean bringing in live music. What’s one detail your favorite festival executes well? A unique location or special VIP area? Translate that to your ceremony and venue for an impressive touch.

6. Try a new technology

From a VR component to “reflection mapping,” which uses mirrors, light, and sculptural form to dramatic effect, many flashy options exist to wow attendees. If a new tech has recently caught your eye, like interactive software that connects remote and in-person attendees, try it out at your awards ceremony.

7. Keep the crowd guessing

If you plan to host your awards show annually, change it up. Whether you change the location, categories, or theme, keep it fresh. For example, one year, TechCrunch’s Crunchies Awards allowed attendees to vote in a certain number of categories before the awards show.

8. Keep the stage clean

Don’t muddy up the stage with competing colours, signage, or anything that could distract attendees from the purpose of why they’re there: to honour the winners. If guests can’t see what’s happening on stage, you’ve lost them. Use screens to keep the program accessible and incorporate them in a way that grabs their eye and keeps it there.

9. Offer an award as a sponsorship opportunity

Bring in a sponsor that aligns with your goals, and let them name an awards category related to their brand. For example, if you’re honouring tech innovations, teaming up with a company like Squarespace, Slack, or other thought leaders in the tech industry has the bonus of giving your award more legitimacy.

10. Livestream the show

Livestreaming an awards ceremony is an event in itself and gets more guests involved. Think about entertainment awards like the VMAs or the Oscars that are livestreamed. For a different, more fun experience for those at home, include hosts for separate livestreaming coverage and commentary.

11. Honour someone exceptional

While it’s nice to get as many people involved as possible, try singling out an individual. Whether with a Lifetime Achievement award or another special shout-out, spend extra time shining the spotlight on someone who deserves it.

12. Hire a comedian to host a roast

Comedians can poke fun at the many facets of working life – including awards ceremonies. Look for someone who specialises in corporate gigs or has hosting experience, and ensure they don’t cross the line into the offensive.

13. Combine the awards show with another event

Whether it’s another event you plan to host or an established industry staple, combining your awards ceremony with another occasion can boost attendance rates. Since guests are already planning to go to the main attraction, attending your awards ceremony will be a no-brainer.

14. Hire a special keynote speaker

Awards ceremonies are excellent places to showcase unique speakers. Choose someone who represents your event brand and who guests recognise.

15. Feed your guests

Remember how Melissa McCarthy snuck in extra sandwiches to the Oscars in 2018? Offering a meal is an incentive. You can even theme your dinner to the awards show itself. For example, if you’re honoring the fitness industry, provide healthy options.

16. Educate your audience

Awards shows can teach the audience something new. Dedicate a section of programming to highlight an important aspect of your industry, like the technical awards at the Oscars or Emmys. Or use the opportunity to award someone for social impact to drive awareness and inspire action. It’s a chance to use your platform for something bigger.

17. Offer amazing swag, not just to the winners

Think about on-brand swag bags to give away to your attendees. This will help connect guests to the event and raise brand awareness. Event planners can ask sponsors to contribute items to the event. Include swag in the bags like reusable water bottles, promotional t-shirts, and food-based items to keep hunger pains away during the ceremony.

18. Make entry into the awards show easy

Streamline the nomination process as much as possible. Start with your submission page; whether you have a fun explainer video or text, have the criteria for each category prominently displayed – not hidden behind a drop-down menu.

19. Invest in real trophies

Formal pieces of paper look nice on a wall, but real trophies make impressive office decorations and are a point of pride.

20. Roll out the red carpet – literally

Rent and roll out an actual red carpet to welcome all attendees or just the winners. Take it one step further and hire a photographer for “press” photos that people will love to post on social media. Include a branded wall as a background.

21. Make it a black-tie event

Encourage attendees to dress their best, or get creative by asking for a specific colour. Change it up with pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month or even your company’s logo colours.

Ready for your awards show?

You don’t need to emulate a Hollywood awards show. Make yours glamorous or laid-back to ensure attendees feel comfortable. After all, the idea is to highlight achievements, milestones, and accomplishments of award recipients.

Are you inspired to recognise the outstanding accomplishments of others? Make it easy and set up your awards show on Eventbrite.